Travelling with joy – part 1
Today’s guest post by Roza Germian tells all about her backbreaking adventures of travelling to Kurdistan with Milan, her then 18 months old son and explains why some good travel advice may not work for everyone every time.
After reading “What to take and what to leave – a guide for packing your suitcase (or car)” I was sure I definitely couldn’t travel like this, not in a million years, particularly with my two little children (four years and 11 months old now). It also brought back memories of my 2009 trip to Kurdistan in northern Iraq. I planned a two and a half months trip to visit family there only accompanied by my dear mother and my, then 18 months old bundle of joy, Milan.
We planned to fly from Sydney directly to Kurdistan. This was the first time we could go directly by airplanes as our previous visits were before the fall of Saddam’s regime. Previously we could only fly to Turkey and then spend endless hours going by car and waiting at least six hours at the border trying to cross into Iraqi Kurdistan.
So we were very excited of how this time travelling was going to be much more convenient, hence I decided it was ok to travel with my toddler… However, I must admit I was quite nervous at the same time. So I did a bit of research about travelling with a young child. Every article I read and everyone I asked shared one piece of advice. They all said “take your favourite toys onboard with you”, which I remember very well as the flight was what I was dreading the most. I wasn’t sure how I was going to entertain this kid for so many hours sitting upright in such a confined space. Hence, I packed quite few toys to take on board.
Since Milan was still drinking formula milk, that was another must to take along, and I packed plenty of supplies (six cans to be precise!). Little Milan also has sensitive skin, was still in nappies and teething. This meant that I had to take one and a half months supply of special moisturizer, treatment cream for eczema breakouts, special body wash, shampoo, nappies (had to be Huggies), teething relief, pain and fever relief medication as well as the bottle steriliser and at least four pairs of pacifiers.
Back then Milan was already the fussiest kid I had ever seen when it comes to eating. Reality was we were travelling to a third world country. I was reminded by this fact when I told my GP where we were planning to go and she brought up the longest list of life threatening diseases that I was recommended to get vaccinated against if I had to travel to that part of the world (which I only laughed at, and just made sure the little one’s vaccinations were up-to-date). So yes, I packed HEAPS of baby food jars that Milan could still eat in worse case scenarios; this totalled the baby food bag to 26kg which was six kilograms over the weight limit per passenger. I still had all his clothes and nappies to pack, plus my luggage, plenty of gifts and souvenirs for family and friends back home.
To make things even more complicated we left mid-March and were going to stay until about the first week of May. This meant the weather would still be quite cold in that part of the world and warm up towards the end of our stay. So I had to pack coats and boots as well as some lighter clothes and shoes for spring. I ended packing an even larger suitcase for our cloths, gifts, nappies, shoes and toiletries.
The bad news was the second suitcase was also over the weight limit (of course)! I kept taking out more and more of my own cloths, so that I only had two pairs of jeans, instead of four, two coats, instead of three and so forth. But the weight was still over the limit. I decided to stuff some of Milan’s clothes and about half of the nappies in a nappy bag that we could take on-board, now we only had about 2.5kg too much which we hoped to get away with…
Finally came the time when we were ready to leave to the airport with our two suitcases to check-in. To take on-board I had my large hand bag which had all documents, travel size skin-care and my make-up kit. I had the biggest nappy bag imaginable, and another little bag that had toys, “blankie”, a couple of dummies and eight sterilised formula bottles, with four of them already filled with pre-boiled water, a can of formula and a few jars of baby food.
My mother on the other hand, had a suitcase to check-in, one mini suitcase to take on-board her handbag (of course) and most importantly her memory-foam pillow (aka VIP pillow) – for those who have never seen, tried or owned one of those things they are a little heavier than your regular pillow.
At the check-in counter, we were to find out that we had about six kilograms over the weight limit. And the very grumpy person at the counter was not going to allow any exceptions. This was a DISASTER!!! Left with no other choice we had to step aside, unpack, and take out things out of the suitcase. More of my clothes and shoes had to go out (luckily my husband was there to take them home). When re-weighed, we still had just over 2kg too much. No, there was no way I was taking out anything else. This was ok as long as we paid $150 per extra kilogram. Well, at least this worry was over; finally we got rid of our heavy luggage for the time being.
After saying goodbye to our loved ones too, and going through customs, we could not wait until the time when we could just take our seats on the plane. The little one was now very tired already; it was way past his bedtime, and he did not want to walk any more, and definitely had no patience to stand quietly in the endless queues before getting on-board. When I picked him up he was wriggling so much that he just slipped out of my arms. I tried to keep him entertained for a little while, playing little games and singing him songs, but it wasn’t long before he had enough of that too. When on his own two little feet and “off my spine”, he was running around everywhere between people and up and down the queue.
Did I mention I was also carrying a humongous “nappy bag”; a hand-bag that felt like it was full of bricks! I also had the other bag with all the toys and all other stuff in it… Now imagine chasing a toddler up and down a moving queue.
My mum, who already had her own carry-on luggage, a hand-bag, her VIP pillow and also suffers from a bad back. I tried my hardest not to let her help me with my bags or carry Milan, but she ended up doing both as there came moments when I thought my back was definitely going to break and I was on the edge of collapsing. It surely felt like we were never going to make it to our seats, but we were still able to laugh at ourselves in disbelieve. The even funnier part was walking between the narrow isles on the plane and taking our seats with all our hand luggage and Milan in arms.
AT LAST!!! I got Milan into his PJs gave him a bottle and wasn’t going to worry about brushing his teeth that night, and hoped he was tired enough to just fall asleep. But yet again, it wasn’t going to be that rosy! There was too much going on that was much more interesting than closing his eyes. How was he supposed to sleep in this very strange place far from his bedroom and cot?! It wasn’t until after lift-off, when the lights went out that he was finally K.O.
Part two to follow